After moving to Kansas, Tad Stricker visited a state motor vehicle office to perform what he thought was the routine task of getting a new driver’s license and registering to vote. It was a familiar procedure for Stricker, 37, who has moved from state to state frequently in his work as a hotel manager. He filled out a voter registration form and got his driver’s license. He was not asked for more documents, he said. So he was stunned when he tried to cast a ballot in November 2014 and was told he was not on the voter rolls. A month later, a letter from the state said why: His registration had been placed “in suspense” because he had failed to meet a state requirement he did not know about – proving he was an American. Spurred by Secretary of State Kris Kobach, a national leader in pushing for anti-immigration and voting changes, more than 36,000 Kansas residents have joined Stricker in limbo since early 2013 under a state law that raises a new and higher barrier to voting in the United States: proof of citizenship.
While you must be a U.S. citizen to vote in American elections, most states allow those wishing to register to simply sign a statement affirming they are citizens and provide a driver’s license number, Social Security number, or other proof of residency.
A Reuters analysis of the Kansas suspense list shows the law disproportionately hits young voters, who often do not have ready access to the needed documents, as well as unaffiliated and Democratic voters in the Republican-controlled state.